An important part of cultural exchange is learning about and respecting other people’s beliefs, values and boundaries even when they are different from our own. You should also expect to be treated with respect. Learn what is and is not acceptable behavior in the United States. Contact CIEE immediately if you have serious concerns related to harassment or discrimination.

What is harassment?

The term “harassment” includes, but is not limited to, jokes, insults, or other verbal, graphic, or physical conduct relating to a person’s race, color, sex, religion, national origin, citizenship, age or disability.

What is sexual harassment?

Sexual harassment is unwelcome verbal or physical activity of a sexual nature that makes a person feel offended, humiliated, threatened, and/or intimidated.

Examples of sexual harassment

  • Unwanted Physical Contact

    • Hugging
    • Kissing
    • Touching
    • Preventing movement
    • Forcing sexual contact
    • Repeatedly standing or sitting very close to someone
  • Sexual Jokes, Comments, Threats

    • Making sexual jokes/comments
    • Repeatedly asking for dates
    • Threatening employment, rape, or program termination
    • Promising favors in exchange for sex
  • Sexual Gestures, Looks, Visuals

    • Sending texts or videos with sexual content
    • Making sexual gestures
    • Looking at people sexually
    • Whistling at people
    • Displaying images in the workplace with sexual content

When we live and work in another culture, we can accidentally behave in socially unacceptable ways. Pay close attention to the body language of the person you are interacting with.  Culturally, what is viewed as flirting in one country, can be perceived as sexual harassment in another country.   

If you experience sexual harassment

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Here are some important steps you can take if you are experiencing sexual harassment:

  • If you feel safe to do so, use your voice and your body to clearly tell the perpetrator STOP. Avoid being alone with the perpetrator. If you have any texts or emails between yourself and the perpetrator, save them and share them as part of your reporting. Write down all the details after an incident.
  • Tell a trusted friend or co-worker, inform your host employer and call your program sponsor, so that you do not have to handle this alone. 
  • You can also contact an organization like RAINN that specializes in supporting those that have been sexually assaulted.
  • If the situation feels dangerous, remove yourself from a situation as quickly as possible and go somewhere safe. If necessary, call 911 for additional help.
  • Contact CIEE immediately if you have serious concerns related to harassment or discrimination.

While you are on your program, you should:

  • Understand the rules. Understand your host employer’s policy about sexual harassment and what the consequences are.
  • Stop when you are asked. When a person tells you to stop doing something, even if they are laughing or smiling, you must stop.  Sometimes people laugh or smile because they are nervous, or they don’t want to upset the person.  It doesn’t always mean they like what you are doing.
  • Be mindful of unwanted jokes. Even if you know and feel comfortable with your co-workers and friends, unwanted jokes or teasing can turn into harassment – you might think it’s funny, but it’s not funny to everyone.
  • Respect physical and verbal boundaries. Unless someone indicates clear consent, physical and verbal boundaries must be respected. Any unwanted physical contact is unacceptable. Even though you know someone for a long time, that doesn't give you the right to behave inappropriately or sexually towards them. Even if you have dated a person in the past, it does not mean you can still have physical contact with that person or expect any kind of romantic or sexual relationship. Consent may be taken away at any time.
  • Talk about it. If you experience or witness sexual harassment, notify your host employer and contact CIEE immediately.

Potential Consequences for committing sexual harassment include being suspended or fired from work, removed from housing, arrested, or terminated from your program.

Video Resources

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Take a moment to watch the videos below to better understand what sexual harassment might look like. 

Video 1: Understanding Sexual Harassment in the United States - full

Understand what sexual harassment is, how it may play out in a workplace and what you can do if you experience or witness sexual harassment.​ Duration: 13:19

Video 2: Understanding Sexual Harassment in the United States – Introduction

Get an overview of what sexual harassment is, what you can do to avoid offending others, and what you can do if you experience or witness sexual harassment.​ Duration:  2:11

Video 3:  Scenario 1: When A Relationship Ends

This is the first scenario. Ending a relationship is never easy, but it is even more difficult when you work together. Duration:  2:58

Video 4:  Scenario 2: If It Feels Wrong, It Is Wrong

Anastasia and Briana were having a great summer working and living together at employee housing at an amusement park. When the air conditioner broke in their room, management sent a maintenance worker to look at the broken air conditioner.​ Duration: 1:53

Video 5: Scenario 3:  Crossing The Line

Working at a restaurant is fast-paced and high-energy.   Bode liked to joke around with his coworkers, but one day, his jokes went too far. Duration: 1:59

Video 6:  Scenario 4:  All I'm Asking For Is Respect

One of the most important values in the workplace is respect.  Respect in the workplace should rise above cultural differences, beliefs, or any other diversities people may have. Duration: 2:30